ISU stonewalls, Leath plays the victim ahead of airplane use audit

Any day now, the internal auditor for the Iowa Board of Regents may complete his review of all plane trips on Iowa State University’s Flight Service since President Steven Leath came to ISU nearly five years ago.

Although Leath has promised to be “as open and transparent as possible” regarding his airplane use, ISU officials have steadfastly refused to clarify certain details about specific flights or university practices. Reporters probing facts not found on the “frequently asked questions” page keep getting the same runaround: ISU cannot comment, so as not to “jeopardize the integrity of the audit.”

ISU has also slow-walked some information requests related to the airplane controversy. Ten days since the university’s Public Records Office received my payment for one set of records, I’m still waiting for documents that were supposed to take only 3.5 hours to compile. The delay will prevent me from reporting on a potentially newsworthy angle before Todd Stewart sends his findings to the Board of Regents. Depending on when the material arrives, how long it takes to review it, and whether ISU answers follow-up questions promptly, I may not be able to publish before board members convene a special meeting to discuss the internal audit.

Leath complained last week about supposedly “vicious personal attacks” in media coverage of the airplane controversy. It’s not the first time he has claimed to endure “unfair” treatment by writers supposedly engaged in “distortions” and asking “inappropriate” questions.

In reality, “planegate” reporting has addressed Leath’s conduct and use of university resources, not his personal qualities.

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Dealing with America Inc.

Tracy Leone has been involved with organized labor since 1997 and with elections in Iowa since 2006. Today she shares her thoughts on the path forward for Democrats. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Thanks to Bleeding Heartland for publishing diverse views regarding what the Democratic Party ought to do to get back to the business of winning elections again. While there is no single practice or set of principles to cure all that ails us, there are certainly things that have not been done that contributed to the Democratic failures at all levels of government.

It is urgent that we boldly resist the attacks on our democratic humanistic institutions, whether they come from Republicans or Democrats. Obama’s drone policy, his mass deportations and 5AM raids on immigrant families, his signing into law of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act that strips US citizen of due process are right-wing policies and we Democrats need to have the courage to criticize when one of our own takes position against our values.

What we now face at the state and national levels means this is not just an intellectual exercise. Our democracy depends on it.

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End of an era: Dean Borg to stop hosting "Iowa Press"

Iowa politics-watchers have been tuning in to public television’s “Iowa Press” program for longer than I can remember. Even now, when junkies can get around-the-clock news fixes from cable networks or social media, newsmaker interviews on “Iowa Press” are often must-see tv for those following state government.

Many “Iowa Press” panelists have come and gone, but Dean Borg has moderated the show since its inception in 1971. Iowa Public Television announced last week that Borg will turn the program over to someone else after the first week of next year’s legislative session. He will continue to appear on occasional television broadcasts. I’m seeking comment on whether he will continue to file stories for Iowa Public Radio, where he has worked since 2000.

I enclose below more background on Borg and his many accomplishments, from Iowa Public Television’s news release.

The network hasn’t yet named a new host for “Iowa Press.” Following in Borg’s footsteps will be a challenge. Who would you like to see leading the panel? I don’t have anyone specific in mind, but I think trying to copy Borg’s style would be a mistake. I’d encourage the next moderator to be more aggressive in pushing guests who evade questions. The person wouldn’t need to be as confrontational as the BBC’s legendary interviewer Jeremy Paxman–just a little less “Iowa nice.”

UPDATE: Iowa Public Television announced on November 29 that David Yepsen will take over as “Iowa Press” host in January (scroll down for the full statement). Yepsen was a panelist on the program for many years, when his main work was for the Des Moines Register.

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The Waterloo Police Department will face no pressure from Trump's administration

The city of Waterloo has agreed to pay $2.75 million this year to settle a wrongful death case and four other lawsuits over excessive uses of force by police. Other officers’ actions toward African-Americans led to an acquittal in a murder trial and will likely inspire more lawsuits. The series of scandals nearly cost Police Chief Dan Trelka his job in September.

After ignoring experts’ advice for many months, Trelka insists he is trying to improve relationships between his department and the African-American community in Waterloo.

Let’s all hope he is sincere, because under Donald Trump’s administration, police misconduct and especially excessive force against black people will face a lot less scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice and its Civil Rights Division.

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Trump shut out of major Iowa newspaper endorsements

A long and growing list of U.S. newspapers that normally support Republican candidates have refused to endorse Donald Trump for president.

Editorial boards at several large Iowa publications joined the crowd.

Not only that, some went so far as to endorse Hillary Clinton, including one newspaper that had not supported a Democrat for president in my lifetime.

I enclose below highlights from thirteen lead editorials endorsing either Clinton or neither major-party candidate. Earlier this year, I thought some conservative editorial boards might choose Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson as an alternative to Trump, but I am not aware of any Iowa newspapers to do so.

Speaking of endorsements, film-maker Michael Moore spoke to Rolling Stone magazine recently about his “forbidden love” for Clinton and his fear that Trump, whom he considers a “sociopath,” could win the election. Some of Moore’s comments surprised me, since he campaigned for Ralph Nader in 2000 and was a big Bernie Sanders backer in the primaries. His reasoning tracked closely to that of Iowa’s best-known Nader endorser, Ed Fallon. Speaking to Bleeding Heartland in August, Fallon discussed that choice and why he’s discouraging activists on the left from voting for third-party candidates this year.

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